Last night, the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF), a nonprofit organization that provides free and low-cost quality gymnastics for urban youth, hosted their 6th annual benefit, the Going for the Gold Gala in New York City at National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey. F visit: https://www.wendyhilliard.org.
At the event, Olympic Champions Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner were presented with the Champions Award. Additional honorees included Vice Chairman of Millennium Management Simon M. Lorne who was presented with the Corporate Award and USA Gymnastics Hall of Famer Bruno Klaus who was presented with the Spirit of Sport Award.
Nadia Comaneci is the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympics. Bart Conner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and television commentator. The two have been married since 1996, the same year the WHGF was formed. Simon M. Lorne is the Chief Legal Officer and Vice Chairman of Millennium Management LLC. Bruno Klaus is a living legend in the sport of gymnastics and runs a family-owned gymnastics camp. All have been exemplary supporters of the WHGF.
One hundred percent of the gala’s proceeds will support the WHGF gymnastics programs which, to-date, have served more than 17,000 local youth, developing elite athletes and international gymnastic performers in the process. The WHGF’s programs don’t stop in New York. The foundation expanded to another community in need and is now celebrating their third year of programming in Hilliard’s hometown of Detroit.
At the gala, attendees were treated to a ‘parade of athletes,’ whose names and accomplishments are listed below, kind words and sentiments by the honorees, and performance by the WHGF’s competition team members ages 7 to 17. Maurice DuBois of CBS-2 News served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies and was coached by Bart and Nadia on how to do a handstand!
Additional athletic luminaries and VIPs that were in attendance included but were not limited to Camille Duvall, five-time World Champion Water Skier; Niahlah Hope, WHGF alumna, stunt double for Lupita Nyongo in Black Panther; Phaidra Knight, USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade 2010; Gail Marquis, USA Basketball 1976 Olympic Medalist; Dawn Riley, first woman to manage an America’s Cup syndicate, the first American to sail in three America’s Cups; Collette Smith, New York Jets’ first female coach; Audrey Smaltz, Fashion and Cultural Icon; and Rose Voisk, competed in gymnastics in 1948 Summer Olympics.
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“Interest in gymnastics among African-American youth continues to skyrocket with the help of the recent Gold Medalists Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, yet the sport is not accessible in most urban areas. With 22 successful years in Harlem and recently expanding to my hometown of Detroit, the WHGF is changing that,” said WHGF Founder, Wendy Hilliard. “It’s been truly an honor to have the support of these remarkable, record-setting athletes and the ongoing support of all of our generous donors, sponsors and partners. We are committed to helping underserved youth achieve improved physical, emotional and mental health through gymnastics and supporting all students who have the determination and ability to compete.”
“Wendy and her team are making a huge impact in the community and have established an incredible track record of providing quality programs for people of all ages and abilities in the sport of gymnastics – a mission that we’re so proud to support,” said Olympic Champions Nadia Comaneci & Bart Conner. “All of Wendy’s students are getting lessons that will provide them with confidence that will serve them throughout their lives, whether they go on to the Olympics or become doctors or school teachers. We admire and applaud Wendy for her work and we’re so honored to receive this award.”
“Wendy Hilliard, through her Foundation, has used gymnastics as an entry point to provide discipline and incentives for goal-oriented behavior to a large number of children in generally underserved communities,” said Vice Chairman of Millennium Management, Simon M. Lorne. “I am humbled to receive this honor from the Foundation, and will treasure it greatly.”
Hilliard was a member of the U.S. Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team for a record setting nine times but early in her career she had to fight for her spot on the team. In 1983 Wendy was denied a spot on the World Championship Group Routine. The coach said that she stood out too much for the synchronized routine. Wendy challenged the decision and U.S.A. Gymnastics then selected the team based on the ranking from the National Championships which allowed Wendy to participate in her third World Championship. It was the pivotal incident that set the stage for her long career as an advocate for an athlete’s right to compete.
For more information about WHGF visit: https://www.wendyhilliard.org